Tuesday, December 28, 2010

McCall's 6978 from 1963: Aka The Great Wiggle Dress Disaster of 2010

It looks so pretty on the envelope....

Raglan sleeves or as I like to call them, "the beginning of the end"

So blissfully ignorant

Okay, trying to catch up here. Hopefully, posting two today will alleviate some of the guilt I feel for having such a huge backlog!

This particular dress was made right before Thanksgiving. I remember this, because I wanted to wear it to my friends' house for Thanksgiving, but the results did not allow it. I'm trying not to be so hard on myself, because this was my first wiggle dress. After recently hopping onto the "Mad Men" bandwagon (I'm in the middle of Season 3), I was really excited to make it. Disappointment is worse when you're really excited about a particular project.

Presenting the highlight reel for McCall's 6978 from 1963:

1.) FABRIC: I used a synthetic suede fabric from Joann's (really getting sick of their selection, or lack thereof). I was nervous to sew it, because I fell absolutely in love with it when I saw it and was in awe of its beauty. The texture and color reminded me of a really swank vintage couch. It seemed like it would make for a wiggle dress with an edge. But... there's an important lesson here. No matter, how much you love the fabric, use some sense already, ASTRID! Why, oh why, did I use a fabric that had NO STRETCH for a wiggle dress. I can hardly walk in the thing! When I was trying it on after it was finished, I dropped something, and I had to ask my husband to pick it up for me. Now, I know that wiggle dresses can be a little awkward, but if there was some stretch, I could have managed. This is bloody ridiculous. The fabric is so stiff, it hurts to bend my elbows.

You can hardly see the "V" shape on the front. Maybe I shouldn't have used black.

This isn't the first time my fabric choice was really stupid. But, I've finally developed a theory as to why I make these mistakes: Joann's selection of colors, prints, and textures is so limited that I end up picking a wrong material, because I can't find the right material in the right color, print, or texture. I go against my best judgment, because something "shiny" catches my eye, and I can't find it in a material that will work. I've tried to explore other fabric stores locally, but most just sell upholstery fabric. One in my neighborhood has really cool prints, but only in a 100% cotton material that reminds me of quilting fabric (which I don't care to use). Several projects from this one, I started buying fabric online and have been happy with the results. More on that later, though.

The fabric looked like a swank couch in the store. On the dress, more like a garbage bag.

2.) FRONT SEAMS/RAGLAN SLEEVES: I am pretty sure I'll never sew raglan sleeves again. I probably said this already and then did it again, but this time I mean it. I've set aside all my patterns with raglan sleeves and will be reselling them. With the suede cloth, the raglan sleeves kept bunching at the armpit. Plus, they were too baggy for me, and when I tried to adjust them, the bunching only got worse. I know...I know...I should be doing a FBA, but I've found that isn't necessary for me with most 34B patterns. When I have shoulder seam problems with set in sleeves, I just cut the shoulder shorter, so the sleeves don't fall off my shoulders. That works perfectly. This pattern, though, probably needed a FBA. Why won't I learn FBA? I don't see it as having enough utility for the kind of styles I'm making, since I've already figured out a way to fix almost 100% of shoulder problems I run into. Raglan sleeves have been one of the few exceptions. I'm not that wild about how they look on me, so I don’t consider avoiding them a big loss.

It doesn't LOOK bad... if only I could move...

3.) HAIR STYLING: Unfortunately, my normal everyday look doesn't really match the Mad Men/pin-up style. I have long straight hair, and I have no idea how to curl it in a way that would make it look late 50's/early 60's. Most women in that era didn't have hair nearly as long as mine, so I question whether styling my hair in that manner is even possible. Plus, my hair is really fine and hates the curling iron. That doesn’t help.

4.) ACCESSORIES: For some reason, this dress just does not look like the right era. I think it's my hair, but I'm not sure. Perhaps if someone with the right hairstyle wore the dress, it would look Mad Men-esque. I tried to add accessories such as the beret, red belt, and red shoes. Those did help. However, I couldn't shake the feeling that this dress was looking kind of 80's instead of 50's or 60's. Anyone have any ideas? Is it my long straight hair being incongruous with that era that is causing the problem? Is the Mad Men style wrong for my "look"?

Take the picture already. My elbows hurt!

5.) GATHERING: I omitted the instructions to "gather" at the waist. I think I know how to do that now, but it didn't really affect the outcome to omit it.

So, what's the lesson here? You probably shouldn't make a dress you can't move in. Yeah, don't do that.

Happy sewing!


  1. Astrid, you are adorable! The dress looks fab but you're right... always buy fabric that would go with the pattern, ie., a wiggle dress should have some stretch so as to 'wiggle'. The black looks good on you and the red accessories really makes it pop. Have missed your posts!

    Monique xx

  2. oh girl, you really need to try a proper FBA. just one! i'm about the same size as you are, and i was astounded by the world of difference they make - it's more than just pulling up the shoulders to fit. you really should try it! plus the cutting and taping and "redrafting" is kind of fun (well, i think it is :P)!

    joann's has the absolute worst fabric selection :( i pretty much only stick with wool blends and linens if i have to shop there... everything else just hangs weird and the colors are kind of garish. we have a really great local fabric store in my town that sells AWESOME stuff, but it is mad expensive. the cheapest apparel fabric starts around $15 a yard ughhh

  3. Just standing there the dress looks fantastic but moving would me nice. Could it be saved by adding a slit in the back or perhaps the sides & then shortening the sleeves?

    As for hair, look up the how to for that style, I was surprised to find many styles have a hidden something in the hair to get it just right. 40s have a sponge thingy that gives that poof, the french rolls do too. Those things (sorry cannot remember the correct name) are fairly reasonable most being under ten dollars. And hairspray - Aquanet is still the best & what our theater people use for doing those era styles.

  4. Try putting your hair in a french twist. I bet it would look fabulous with that dress, and more period accurate. That won't help the non-wiggleyness of your dress though. :)

  5. I agree with The Lady in Red - try a French twist.

    I think perhaps you have reached the point in your sewing adventure where it's time to consider the cheap-muslin-and-awesome-final-fabric approach. I too live in an area without any real apparel fabric stores, and I have been very happy with my online fabric purchases. I usually get my cheap "practice" fabrics from Fashion Fabrics Club and then go for the good stuff at Gorgeous Fabrics. Fabric Mart also has good deals on random nice stuff. I miss the instant gratification of shopping locally, but having a nice finished dress is worth it. I also buy nice fabric as a souveneir when I travel, which makes the eventual dress even more special.

  6. I feel your pain on finding fabric! The only fabric store nearest me is a Hancock's and it has the same problems you describe about your JoAnne's. It seems like these stores are geared more toward fleece blanket items or cotton quilting or even halloween outfits... to find decent apparel fabric is difficult and when I do find it - $$$$$.... I live about an hour northeast of Atlanta and you would think that Atlanta would have a better garment district...???!!

  7. It still looks nice even thou you can't move around in it. I like that fact you admit to your mistakes which makes me feel like I'm not alone when I'm frustrated with my sewing. However, what's the use of learning to sew if you can't experiment with different fabrics. I thought cotton and silk would never go together but there are some fabulous tops sold in retail right now that looks great. Keep thinking out of the box. You are an inspiration.

  8. The hair things are called "rats" and I like the dress, but yeah, moving is good.

    To me it looks 80s because of the fabric, but I sew vintage with modern fabrics because I don't want them to be too accurate, so what do I know?

  9. Hi there! New follower here. What a disappointment--but remember, every failed project is a learning experience.
    And you totally look like a 60s beatnick with the beret, red accessories and long rebellious mane!

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  11. It's giving me a "beatnik" vibe! So it looks more 50s to me? I love the front V design. Also don't beat yourself up over fabric choice. I do the EXACT same thing. I see a skull fabric and I buy it from impulse then I try and figure out what to make with it. I shop at Joanne's alot too. I know what you are talking about. You can make this dress again and add more EASE then you can use a non-stretch fabric. Also those Raglans (i hate them too for fitting reasons) you can just redo that pattern and add a shoulder seam and sleeves! no need to sell all your cute patterns honey! I nominated you for THE STYLISH BLOGGER AWARD! Check out the details at this blog post http://sew-misunderstood.blogspot.com/2011/01/blog-awards-and-stuff-you-never-wanted.html

  12. The dress looks fabulous you should order your fabrics online way cheaper than Joann's plus way more options

  13. @Monique: Sorry I haven't been posting! I've been VERY bad lately. I really need to get back in the rhythm of things. The holidays messed me all up. Thanks for the compliment : - )
    @lladybird: Ha, ha...well, I don't know if I could ever find a FBA to be "fun." But, we'll see. Maybe with all the folks insisting I try it, I'll end up breaking down one day. I'm glad I'm not alone in thinking that Joann's has a bad selection. I have noticed things hanging weird too. I wonder what's up with that?
    @StephanieinAR: Yeah, moving is essential-- ha ha! A slit might save it-- you're right, but at this point, I'm not passionate enough about it to take the time to fix it. Does that make sense? And thanks for the hair suggestions too.
    @The Lady in Red: Have to look into that. Thanks!
    @Jenny: I'll have to consider that-- and cool idea about the souvenir idea. That sounds fun!
    @Syrena: Yeah, I'm in Atlanta myself (midtown) and I have not found a good fabric store. I keep getting excited, thinking I've found one, only to find that it's an upholstery fabric store. If I find a good one, I'll be sure to post about it!
    @MarLou: Awww...thanks so much. I really appreciate that. If I can help anyone through the sharing of my mistakes, then they don't feel like real mistakes.
    @sewducky: I know what you mean. I was trying to do the vintage modern mix. I guess I just didn't want an 80's result.
    @Steph: Yep, that's truly. I do learn something new every time. When I first started, I would get more ticked off about mistakes, but now I'm feeling pretty Zen about it all. I am big fan of the Beat writers, too, so I appreciate that comparison!
    @Psycho Sue - Sew Misunderstood: I love the beatnik comparison! I've been into Beat writing since I was a teenager, and I love that look too. Great ideas about fabric and the raglan sleeves. Thanks for that and for the nomination too : - ) Sorry for my slow response. I've been very bad about posting. I need some discipline here!
    @Tracey: Yep, I'm def. going the online route now. It's so much better!